Saturday, August 08, 2009

Question Of The Day

Why do some otherwise progressive, intelligent, articulate, inclusive, kind-, open- and generous-hearted religious bloggers and blog commenters who would not be caught dead engaging in classist, racist, (hetero)sexist, ethnicist, sizist, ageist or otherwise -isty language feel that it is perfectly fine to traffic in generalities about "baby boomers" ? Or perhaps I should include the obligatory participle -- "aging baby boomers" -- as if other demographic cohorts were NOT aging.

This week saw the return of the much-beloved Father Jake blog. As I skimmed through the welcoming comments after the first post I stumbled at this one:

Jake, it's great to have you back. This was always one of my favorite places. Now I may have to put in for 36-hour days..... I have one comment I heard from a founder of our NextGen young adults group. He told me that the fight over gays is a boomer fight and that his younger generation doesn't care about gender orientation at all. So, in truth, many of the very conservative exclusive churches being led out of TEC now may very well wither on the vine later when acceptance of gays is much more widespread, and that IS coming. There has been so much progress already, and the trend is for improvement, evn if it's not as fast as we'd like.

I could hardly have been more deflated. Here was a young man or woman gleefully announcing that a founder, no less, of their church-based young adult group has basically blamed the whole Anglican/Episcopal gender issue on "boomers" and that, by extension, as soon as we have the decency to kick off, all will be well indeed.

It brought to mind a few other memorable blog reading moments in which I had the same experience -- reading along with pleasurable agreement until the boom(er) gets lowered onto my head. In the next example, a blogger from the emergent church movement is railing against management-speak, power-pointy discourse being imported from corporate circles into ecclesiatic life. As someone who can't even abide this crap being imported into my own workplace, I was, of course, in full agreement -- until I learned that it was ALL MY FAULT !

I'm sick of this kind of discourse, and mad at the Church for the ways we reinforce it. Well meaning attempts at "meeting people where they are" get tainted by the very same shallowness which makes our lives so fragmented and meaningless. Boomer-beloved ways of doing this include permeating our church with corporate lingo and "best practices" from the working world. You want to grow your church? The answer isn't some new database software, or that PR Firm that charges you thousands to create a "brand" or that dumb billboard on the interstate, and please, who the hell still uses the Yellow Pages anyway?

An anglocatholic blogger has a more subtle cavil, that boomers don't listen, and offers a free bit of psychanalyse in the process.

Bottom line is this: All of our debates have been about homosexuality. There seems to be this belief from the conservative side that “gays run the church”. It really doesn’t work like that. Instead, the church is run by aging baby-boomers who came-of-age in the time of civil rights and either marched or now regret not doing so. Spurred by activists they are eager to be on the right side now but in their eagerness have failed to do what they themselves purport to recommend: listening.

Another blogger tries to exonerate himself from the charge of generalizing by acknowledging that he's doing so. (Oldest trick in the book.) In an interesting turn, boomers are now depicted NOT as the agents of clinging to the dead structures and beliefs of the past, but as impediments to the young in their quest to embrace "traditional forms" !

There seems to me a compulsion among the “Baby-Boomer” generation (and yes this is a generalization) for continual change. In my dealing with the younger generations, they are frankly sick of it. Of course change is constant in their own lives, but what they seem to be seeking in a world-of-nothing-but-change is a constant – something they can hold on to and be sure of. That’s why, I think, traditional forms of church architecture, language, liturgy, hymnology, and the like are so attractive to younger people – often to the chagrin of their elders.

So, not only have we boomers insisted on retaining the most odiously bigoted aspects of the past, we have jettisoned the rich traditional heritage of music and liturgy and replaced it with corporate speak, Christian Rock and power point.

Is there no end to our crimes ?

No, there is not. The right (for all its belief in Biblical inerrancy, often willing to transgress St Paul's various injunctions against aggressive speech) has no love for us either:

Like a pathetic druggie looking for one more fix, they hope to recapture past glories by following even further down the same path but even the culture itself has forged a new road. All that is left are aging baby boomer radicals who delude themselves into thinking their feeble iconoclastic outbursts are still vital.

Pathetic druggie ! Feeble iconoclastic outbursts ! Ouch. Now that's harshing my mellow, dude.

It's always instructive to be reminded what it feels like to be excluded, dismissed out of hand, disregarded, unfairly characterized, and I expect that as my hair gets grayer and my wrinkles more abundant, the unpleasant oscillation between the experience of invisibility and the experience of scorn will only increase. Did I mention condescension ?

This is one reason why a return-to-the-weeds has been looking awfully good to me lately. In the Church of the Weeds none of these polarizing categories -- male, female, gay, straight, black, white, young, old, left, right, rich, poor, schooled, unschooled, childed, unchilded, wed, unwed, introvert, extrovert, loner, gregarious, married, divorced, baptized, unbaptized, greedy, generous, loving, hostile, optimistic, pessimistic, Christian, non-Christian -- pertain. God loves (I will leave unpacking of that fraught phrase for more finely honed theological minds than mine) all weeds, no matter what, no matter where. The Infinite Ground of Being is not a small minded prude or a nit-picking moral accountant. God unleashes us into our lives then gathers us all back up in the end. Salvation lies in how well we escape the bonds of greed, hatred and delusion here-and-now, not pie-in-sky. How well we incarnate Christ, or, if you prefer, Guanyin, the bodhisattva of compassion, as we encounter our fellow humans in the icy darkness and mud of the Boulevard Noir.

Luckily, my own church, small c, the stone one on Main Street, is a relatively weedy one. I will keep reminding myself of that. And spend less time among the ceaselessly cherished opinions of the internets, including --especially -- my own.

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